Historic sentence for cruel poultry farmer

25 May 2010

Running a poultry farm in a way that caused suffering and distress to animals in his care has landed an Auckland poultry farmer in prison and cost him the right to own broiler hens for 10 years.

Gerard Francis Van Den Bogaart, trading as Golden Harvest Poultry, was today sentenced by Her Honour Judge McAuslan in Papakura District Court after pleading guilty to four offences under the Animal Products Act 1999 (APA) and two offences under the Animal Welfare Act 1999.

In June 2008 New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) investigators and Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) investigators - assisted by police, local council officers and a veterinarian - executed NZFSA search warrants on two rural properties in South Auckland that Van Den Bogaart was operating from. This was done under provisions of the Animal Products Act on the basis of the suspected illegal slaughter and sale of poultry and eggs to a number of Auckland retailers.

During the three-day operation more than 100,000 eggs were seized and destroyed, 5000 laying hens were relocated and more than 1,100 mainly broiler chickens euthanased to alleviate their suffering. NZFSA and animal welfare staff were forced to euthanase a further 4000 hens, broiler chickens and ducks because these animals could not be relocated to compliant properties.

Records show poultry and egg sales totalling $279,962 between January and June 2008, which Judge McAuslan said constituted a significant operation.

In sentencing him, Judge McAuslan said Van Den Bogaart had been cruel and his significant offending over a long period of time had led to suffering and distress for the animals in his care.

Her Honour sentenced Van Den Bogaart under the Animal Welfare Act to one year in prison for the wilful ill-treatment of broiler hens and roosters in his care and for two months concurrently for failing to provide for their physical, health and behavioural needs.

Under the Animal Products Act Her Honour imprisoned Van Den Bogaart for six months concurrently for selling non-compliant animal products, while he was convicted and discharged on two lesser charges under the Act.

He was also ordered to pay almost $10,000 in relation to the costs incurred by the authorities during the three day operation and disqualified from keeping broiler hens for 10 years.

Sentencing marks the culmination of two years of work by authorities. NZFSA director of compliance and investigation Geoff Allen says what the investigators found during the operation beggared belief.

"We found chickens that were kept in filthy and inhumane conditions.

"No consumer should be put at risk by eating eggs or animals produced, kept or slaughtered in such unsanitary conditions and where the necessary precautions are not taken to manage the presence of harmful bacteria."

In early 2007 NZFSA served a notice of direction on the company to cease the sale of poultry and eggs as well as slaughter of poultry, which Mr Van Den Bogaart continued to disregard.

Prior to the operation, NZFSA had tried in vain to help Mr van den Bogaart make his operation compliant by developing a Risk Management Programme (RMP), which is a legal requirement for all poultry slaughterhouses and all egg producers with more than 100 female birds.

MAF investigations manager Greg Reid said that failing to protect the welfare of all production animals including poultry is an offence under the Animal Welfare Act 1999.

"The Act places a duty of care on everyone who owns or is in charge of animals to prevent pain, suffering and distress. Turning a blind eye to animals' suffering - and in this case for personal and financial gain - has serious consequences; not just for the animals but now for Mr van den Bogaart through a court hearing and extensive penalties.

"The standard of care and management in this case was well below and far removed from the behaviours of a reasonable and prudent poultry farmer. Such conduct impacts on the reputation of all good poultry farmers throughout New Zealand."

For further comment on food safety contact: Geoff Allen, Director (Compliance and Investigation), 04 894 2506 or 029 894 2506

For further comment on animal welfare contact: Lisa Gibbison, MAF Senior Communications Adviser, 04 894 0432

For further information: Miriam Meister, Advisor (Media Communications), 04 894 2466 or 029 894 2466.



Last Updated: 22 September 2010

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